From space cots to bed bugs, to bicycle bell satnavs and sustainable farm food – whatever the sector, the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre in Harwell (ESA BIC Harwell) has supported them all. It is now celebrating as its 50th UK space tech start-up ‘graduates’ from the centre, ready to take off as a successful, viable business.
The impressive survival rate is 93% for companies that have been incubated at the ESA BIC Harwell since it opened in 2011, all of which are using space and satellite technology to develop ‘the next big thing’. To date, 61 companies have joined the centre, with 50 graduating so far.
The 50th company to graduate from the ESA BIC Harwell is DEOS Consultancy, which is gearing up to overhaul mobile breast screening in the UK.
For the last 25 years, mobile breast screening vans have operated in isolation from hospitals, with digital images and confidential personal data physically transported from van to hospital by courier, taxi and even radiographers themselves. The target turnaround time between screening and the result is 14 days. DEOS Consultancy have been using satellite technology at the ESA BIC Harwell to develop their prototype for a completely integrated screening solution for smarter, faster and more cost-efficient mobile breast screening service. DEOS can transmit images directly from the van to hospital in three minutes, make appointments live on the van and synchronise with hospitals, giving realtime visibility of status.
Viv Barrett, CEO at DEOS Consultancy said: “By applying satellite connectivity to mobile medical units we have the real potential to radically overhaul mobile breast screening in the UK. We can achieve faster communication of results, along with more efficient staff deployment and logistical savings. Our focus has been on developing the prototype for our technology that could be implemented into all mobile breast screening vans. Being at the ESA BIC Harwell put us in the perfect position to access the specialist technology and expertise we needed to complete our prototype and network with the right audiences and markets. This has been a critical phase in the development of our business.”
Sue O’Hare, Operations Manager at the ESA BIC Harwell, said: “For any start-up, coming up with a great idea is just the first step in the innovation process. Turning an idea into a viable commercial offering is a huge challenge and the ESA BIC Harwell provides the environment and support to do this. I’m thrilled to be celebrating this major milestone with DEOS Consultancy, whose technology could be life changing for so many. The ESA BIC Harwell is bringing space technology to Earth for new start-ups, maximising the potential of space to not only to improve our lives and wellbeing, but also for future economic growth, creating jobs and profitable businesses.”
The ESA BIC Harwell is one of a growing and successful European network of 16 ESA BICs, and is part of ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme. It provides 10 companies a year with a carefully designed support package lasting between one and two years that enables them to harness space-related intellectual property, technologies and expertise, with the provision of £41,500 grant funding, access to STFC’s world-class research facilities and skills, and dedicated business support.
The ESA BIC Harwell has strongly demonstrated that space technologies can be used to improve our lives and wellbeing. Here is just a handful of the companies currently being incubated at the ESA BIC Harwell, and what they are doing right now – the variety of companies on board is astounding:
- AutoNaut has developed a wave propelled Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) that can be controlled by satellite from anywhere on the planet. It is enabling affordable oceanic data gathering to meet unique mission requirements in a changing world. It’s wave propelled, meaning no fuel is needed to cross the world’s oceans.
- Entocycle is developing a completely sustainable, natural solution to help feed the world. It has developed technology to convert food waste into 100% organic protein for farmed animals, achieving in six days a process that takes nature six months to achieve. Entocycle’s technology can simultaneously reduce land fill, recycle valuable nutrients and relieve stresses on food supply.
- Open Cosmos is using patented ESA technology to develop nano-satellites that will enable simple and affordable access to space for SME’s and research institutions, at a fraction of the cost. It provides a one-stop shop service that covers all aspects of nanosatellite space missions, from spacecraft design, to simulation, testing, launch procurement, insurance and operations.
- Satavia is using satellite technology to make aviation smarter and safer. Environmental factors in the atmosphere, such as dust, ice, sulphur, and volcanic, accelerate wear of aircraft components, resulting in unscheduled maintenance that costs the industry billions of dollars each year. Satavia is developing a system that would enable aircraft companies to save millions in unscheduled maintenance every year.
- Weedrbot Innovations is using GPS satellite technology, combined with robotics, advanced image processing and visual navigation, to develop a unique crop management system that can radically reduce costs and improve cultural productivity. The company has plans to trial its system later this year.
Further information on all the start-ups at the ESA BIC Harwell can be found on the website